Advertising Strategies and Lessons


Brands Pivot Messaging & Show Solidarity Against Racial Injustice

June 3, 2020 Carolyn Harding

Shutterstock_1051498664 Hands of diversity and women's empowerment racial harmony

Over the past several days, much of corporate America has shared messages of solidarity and support for protesters and all those fighting against racial injustice. Many brands are shifting away entirely from “business-as-usual” messaging and halting any unrelated marketing to avoid tone-deafness on social media, as social platforms are the places in which much of the conversation surrounding racial issues is unfolding.

Meaningful Campaigns Bring Attention To The Issues At Hand

While major companies are oftentimes wary of conflict and controversial topics, many brands are taking firm stances against racial injustice and demonstrating their support of the Black Lives Matter movement — even launching new initiatives surrounding diversity and inclusion in efforts to unite people in meaningful ways.

Nike: For Once, Don’t Do It

Over the weekend, Nike introduced a new campaign, “For once, don’t do it.” A powerful play on the brand’s iconic tagline, the ad urges people to not turn their backs on racism and to stop pretending “there’s not a problem in America.” Nike’s longtime rival, Adidas, shared the Nike message on social, tweeting, “Together is how we move forward. Together is how we make change.” Nike has a history of standing up for racial injustice, even winning awards for its 2018 marketing campaign, which featured NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, encouraging viewers to “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Nickelodeon: Declaration Of Kids’ Rights

Nickelodeon briefly suspended its regular broadcasting to air two separate messages expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. During the first spot, the screen went orange with a “Declaration of Kids’ Rights,” including powerful statements like, “You have the right to be seen, heard and respected as a citizen of the world,” and “You have the right to be treated with equality, regardless of the color of your skin.”

In another message, Nickelodeon aired eight minutes and 46 seconds of breathing sounds with a black screen carrying the message “I can’t breathe.” Nickelodeon said the programming was “in support of justice, equality and human rights.” The campaign directed viewers to text “DEMANDS” to 55156 — an easy way to access a petition from Color of Change.

Sesame Street: Coming Together

sesame street

In addition to social media posts urging viewers to practice “diversity, inclusion and, especially, kindness” during these times, Sesame Street will be airing a special town hall episode, “Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism.” Guided by experts and parents, the town hall will give kids a forum to discuss racism, the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of embracing diversity. “Racism has no place on our Street — or on any street,” Sesame Street shared.

Spotify: Curated Playlists

Spotify announced several temporary changes to its platform in support of Black Lives Matter. On Tuesday, listeners were shown a black logo and headline image for #BlackoutTuesday across more than a dozen of its flagship podcasts. Select playlists and podcasts will now also include an 8-minute, 46-second track of silence as an acknowledgment for George Floyd.

Additionally, the music platform shared it will run ads that encourage users to listen to its curated playlists featuring black artists. “We are using the power of our platform to stand with black creators, amplify their voices and accelerate meaningful conversation and long-needed change,” Spotify stated.

Crayola: Colors Of The World

In May, in an effort to bring inclusivity to life, Crayola launched its “Colors of the World” crayon set to emphasize the importance of diversity. Crayola partnered with industry experts to create the box of skin tone crayons, giving kids the “power to color themselves into the world they see.”

Messages of Support Resonate With Consumers

Other brands have crafted impactful messages of solidarity, rather than launching ads or campaigns, to show their desire for unity and equality:

  • TikTok CEO Timothy Armoo stated his company halted all marketing communications and pledged to send out a special version of its newsletter, highlighting what people can do to help.
  • Netflix took to Twitter to share its support, writing, “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.”
  • WarnerMedia brands – including HBO, TBS and HBO Max – changed their Twitter names to #BlackLivesMatter and quoted black novelist James Baldwin: “Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.”
  • Google added a message of support beneath its search bar, reading, “We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it.”
  • Ben & Jerry’s, which has a history of speaking out against racial injustice, shared its “heartbreak” on Twitter, expressing its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. “We call ourselves a social justice company that happens to make ice cream,” said Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry’s Head of Global Activism Strategy.

Brands that quickly, consistently and authentically take firm stances against issues such as racial injustice are deeply and broadly appreciated among consumers. However, what people care about even more than a heartfelt message is what brands are doing beyond their words. How are brands investing in and impacting communities? How are brands showing up and taking action?

While we know major businesses have the power to hold global influence, their words must translate into actions to have meaningful impacts and build loyalty and connections with consumers. Brands can, and should, use their voices and the power of their platforms, as those who choose to stay silent now may find it harder to join the discussion later.

Is Your Business Looking For New Ways To Make An Impact?

Until we see equal support and representation of all populations, we all have more work to do. It is every brand’s responsibility to want more and to take actions to achieve more for our communities, ourselves and our children. Shows of support can include donations, petition signatures and increased education. Click here to learn more.

About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

More Content by Carolyn Harding
Previous Article
Innovative Marketing From Nonprofits Committed To Diversity, Inclusion And Lifting Black Voices
Innovative Marketing From Nonprofits Committed To Diversity, Inclusion And Lifting Black Voices

Nonprofits that promote diversity and inclusivity can create innovative marketing strategies that amplify t...

Next Article
Understanding Generational Consumer Behaviors And Preferences Can Help Businesses Reopen Successfully
Understanding Generational Consumer Behaviors And Preferences Can Help Businesses Reopen Successfully

A recent study showed that consumers across generations have different behaviors and expectations for brick...

× Streams